Eating disorders are among the most baffling of all mental health problems. In her book Projections, professor Kari Diesseroth calls eating disorders the greatest mystery in biology, psychiatry and medicine. They frequently stump friends and family, who struggle to comprehend why their loved one would be intentionally starving themselves to death, or going on wild binges only to make themselves vomit it all later.
They also frequently confound professionals, and so eating disorders have gained a reputation for being especially difficult to treat. You hear stories of patients disconnecting IV’s in hospitals to prevent any nutrients from flowing into their body, or screaming bloody murder when you try to insist they eat a nutritious meal, as though you were knifing them in the gut or asking they consume a bottle of cyanide.
Types of eating disorders
Eating disorders come in 3 main varieties:
1. Anorexia (severely restricting one’s calorie intake to the point of all-out starvation)
2. Bulimia (Purging after eating in an attempt to void calories, usually by inducing oneself to vomit, but sometimes by using laxatives
3. Binge eating (consuming excessive amounts of food all in one sitting, often scarfing it down without much pleasure, and then feeling guilty about it afterwards).
On the surface these three things may seem like very different disorders, and sometimes they are. But they can also be tied together. For example, binge eating and bulimia often come together in a ‘binge and purge’ pattern: A person binges, feels guilty about it afterwards, and then purges to try and wipe away the crime. Binging can also be triggered by extreme dieting or anorexic behavior. A person deprives themselves of food in an effort to lose weight, but eventually their willpower gives in, and when it does, they overcompensate and go on a food binge.
The rising rates of eating disorders
Eating disorders are on the rise, likely fueled by a combination of culture and our modern obesity epidemic. Ideal bodies are on display everywhere you turn, from Instagram to mass media, even as more of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Put the two together and you have a situation where more and more people are struggling to develop a healthy relationship with food. The coronavirus pandemic led to an additional surge in eating disorders in both males and females, likely because people sat at home with little to do but eat and surf the web. “I’ve been practicing for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen such a stark increase in need,” says Alice Baker, a certified eating disorder dietitian. (Tauber, 2021)
The danger of eating disorders
Eating disorders are quite dangerous. Anorexics can literally starve themselves to death, resulting in organ failure and heart attacks. Even if they don’t succeed in killing themselves outright, extended periods of starvation can take a toll on the body, leading to brittle bones, organ damage, and other long-term problems The wild swings that come with bulimia or binge eating can cause similar problems, resulting in high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, gastritis, or other serious health complications. So it’s a problem you need to take seriously.
More information on eating disorders
Select from the links below for additional information on eating disorders, or purchase the book linked below for a full examination of these issues.
Understanding & Overcoming Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are a serious, life-threatening illness. So if you or a loved one is struggling, don’t leave their wellbeing to chance. Get the book Understanding & Overcoming Eating Disorders, an essential guide for patients, therapists, and loved one’s alike. The Kindle eBook is just $7.99, (healthier for your pocketbook as well as the environment), and all proceeds from your purchase of this book raise money for charitable children’s causes.
Get the eBook Understanding & Overcoming Eating Disorders (coming soon)